Over the weekend my husband was watching the 24 Hours of Le Mans car race. He’s the race fan, so while he was giving me a little education on the cars and watching the race, I set out to discover more about Le Mans itself.
Le Mans France is situated about 113 miles south west of Paris in the Pays de Loire region. Sitting along the banks of the Sarthe river, Le Mans dates back to Roman times which gives the city a vast and varied history including ties to the Plantagenet royal family. Geoffrey V. d ‘Anjou (Plantagenet) was born in Le Mans during 1113, married Mathilda, daughter of Henry I of England, in Le Mans and his tomb is here too. The marriage of Geoffrey and Mathilda gave us Henry II a future King of England.
Here are 9 reason to visit Le Mans!
1) All car enthusiasts will be interested in visiting Le Mans. There are 2 race courses in the city but the most famous race is the 24 Hours of Le Mans which has been taking place since 1923. A visit to the Musee de l’Automobile is enjoyable for everyone.
2) The fortified Old Town is surrounded by Gallo-Roman walls which were built during the 3rd century to defend the city and are some of the best in all of France. A stroll through the Old Town is delightful as you pass many cobbled streets and half timbered houses.
3) The Cathedral St. Julien rivals the magnificent cathedral in Chartres. Visitors are quite taken by the cathedral’s Gothic flying buttresses, Romanesque portal and stained glass windows. The oldest part of the cathedral dates back to the 11th century. The cathedral is also where Geoffrey married Mathilda and the resting place to the wife of Richard the Lionheart.
4) The Sarthe River cuts a beautiful image through the city. Overlooking the river is Le Menhir, a monument to Celtic beliefs that has been looming over the town for 5,000 years.
5) Today the city hall is in the Palais des Comtes du Maine which is the birthplace of Henry II.
6) The Tunnel was built in the 19th century to make access to Le Mans easier but it also has some interesting lighting and landscaping along with a monument dedicated to Wilbur Wright.
7) Besides the Roman walls, there are other items attesting to Le Mans’ Roman heritage including the Crypte Archeologique des Thermes Romains. In other words, remains of the Roman baths have been discovered near the river and are open to visitors.
8) Just at the edge of town is the impressive Cistercian Abbey of l’Epau. Founded by the wife of Richard the Lionheart, the medieval Abbey is situated along the Huisne River and offers a sanctuary for those seeking peace and calm
9) Le Mans is home to many museums. Museums full of natural history, Automobile history, aquariums, Egyptian artifact and art. But to learn more about Le Mans and its history from Roman times through the 15th century, don’t miss the Museum of Archaeology and History of Mans on Plantagenet Square where you’ll be able to explore the vast history of the city dating all the way back to 50 BC and its Roman settlement.
Looks like there’s much more to Le Mans than cars! No wonder it has also been the site of many movies including Cyrano de Bergerac, Man in the Iron Mask and The Three Musketeers.
Next time I’m in the area I’ll be stopping by,